October 19, 2021

Volume XI, Number 292

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October 18, 2021

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The Scintillating Story of an Immigrant: Milwaukee Bucks Star Player Giannis Antetokounmpo

On July 20, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns, winning the 2021 NBA Championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo became the sixth player in the NBA Final History to score 50 points in one game, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the win. He won the NBA Finals “Most Valuable Player” award; currently, his two brothers also play in the NBA.

Giannis’ Immigration Journey

Giannis was born in December 1994 in Athens, Greece, to Nigerian immigrant parents. His parents had moved to Greece in search of better work opportunities. Like most other immigrant families there, his parents faced threats of deportation to Nigeria and had to survive against anti-immigrant attitudes in Greece.

Not having any legal status, Giannis’ parents had to struggle to maintain steady employment. They sold consumer goods, like watches and hats, to make ends meet. When he turned 13, there was a dramatic shift in the family’s fortune. Spiros Velliniatis, a coach in the Greek amateur basketball leagues, discovered Giannis and his brothers. Spiros was determined to train them.

Coach Spiros offered Giannis’ parents better employment opportunities in exchange for the opportunity to train him and his brothers full-time. Giannis and his brothers improved exponentially by starting their training at a young age and combining persistent hard work with natural gifts. In no time, Giannis became the most sought-after basketball talent in Greece. All the major leagues in the world flocked to the country to see the star in action.

Giannis’s Statelessness

Giannis’ popularity almost hit a roadblock due to his immigration status. Unlike the United States and many other countries, Greece does not offer birthright citizenship. Greece requires at least one parent to be a Greek citizen for the child to gain Greek citizenship. Unfortunately, Giannis – who did not have papers from Greece or Nigeria – was considered stateless. Being born in Greece and living there all his life did not change anything.

Giannis’ statelessness would have prevented him from traveling to New York for the NBA draft. Attempting to secure a Nigerian passport would have taken time. Fortunately, the Greek government offered him citizenship just before the NBA draft, so he stepped onto the world stage as a Greek citizen.

Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship was established in the U.S. Constitution by the Fourteenth Amendment. Giannis’ turbulent journey towards acquiring Greek citizenship highlights the positives of this aspect of the U.S. immigration laws. The primary principle behind this is to ensure that children born to immigrant parents do not have to be burdened by their parents’ decisions.

Giannis and The Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks franchise was worth $300 million before Giannis joined the team. Today, the entire team is work $1.6 billion. The surge of new stars, primarily from diverse backgrounds, has augmented the team’s value. Giannis is the most prominent international player, but the team is filled with international talent. The NBA 2020-2021 season was the seventh consecutive season to have 100+ international players. It also had an international player on all its roster. The players included 17 Canadians and record-tying 14 Africans.

©2021 Norris McLaughlin P.A., All Rights ReservedNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 236
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About this Author

Raymond Lahoud Immigration Attorney Norris McLaughlin
Member

Raymond G. Lahoud, Chair of the firm’s Immigration Law Practice, focuses exclusively on the area of immigration law and deportation defense for individuals, families, small to large domestic and multinational businesses and corporations, employers, international employees, investors, students, professors, researchers, skilled professionals, athletes, and entertainers, in every type of immigration or deportation defense matter—whether domestic or foreign.  While Ray’s immigration practice is global in reach, with service to individuals and organizations across the United States and beyond,...

212-904-0285
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